Survey results from previous rounds indicate positive, lasting changes in families’ eating habit
The Independent Health Foundation, through its signature “Healthy Options Buffalo,” launched a fourth round of “Healthy Options at Home,” a program created during the COVID-19 pandemic to engage families in developing healthy eating habits. So far, the foundation has served more than 600 families through “Healthy Options at Home” since December. The program is sponsored by KeyBank, in partnership with the First Niagara Foundation
The 160 families from the west side of Buffalo received their first meal kits Nov. 2. Each family receives ingredients, recipes and virtual cooking demonstrations for healthy meals serving up to six people, once per week for four weeks. The kits also include: helpful information, such as the cost of the recipe, shopping lists for future use, resources on how to cook on a limited budget and kitchen tools, including measuring utensils, a cutting board, kitchen knives, a sauce pot and potholder.
A press release noted, “The December 2020 pilot program achieved lasting results, with the majority of families reporting a positive change in their eating habits. Eighty-three percent of respondents maintained or ate more meals at home directly after participating. Three months out, 68% continued to maintain or eat more meals at home. An average of 97% of families who participated in the first three rounds of the program – offered in Buffalo, Niagara Falls and Lackawanna – enjoyed participating.”
The Independent Foundation introduced “Healthy Options at Home” late last year as an innovative effort to engage families, typically served by the foundation’s “Soccer for Success” and “Good for the Neighborhood” programs, during the pandemic. When the foundation surveyed “Soccer for Success” families to adapt its focus in 2020, 79% said the cost of healthy food was the biggest challenge, and 39% said they didn’t have enough food to feed their families since the pandemic hit.
“The Independent Health Foundation’s focus has always been providing the community with the support and resources people need to lead healthy lifestyles. While we began this program a year ago in the midst of the pandemic, the wonderful feedback we’ve received from families has inspired us to continue this program and expand it,” said Carrie Meyer, executive director of the Independent Health Foundation. “Families that cook and eat together are more likely to eat healthier foods, and less likely to be overweight. ‘Healthy Options at Home’ provides hands-on, home cooking experiences and encourages families to start small with one meal a week.”
KeyBank and The First Niagara Foundation sponsor this program as an extension of their joint mission to empower individuals and neighborhoods through investment in initiatives that improve quality of life.
“Access to healthy food options is important for the overall health and well-being of our families and our community,” said Elizabeth Gurney, executive director of the KeyBank and First Niagara Foundations. “This program ensures more families in our community will be able to eat well, stay healthy and learn about different kinds of food in a fun and unique way. After three successful four-week programs, we’re pleased to help bring ‘Healthy Options at Home’ to more families in the City of Buffalo.”
Participants are asked to complete a survey at the start and end of the program, in addition to a three-month follow-up survey, to gauge the program’s impact, understand dietary behaviors, determine barriers to healthy cooking and link families with federal nutritional services, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and SNAP for Women, Infants and Children (WIC).
Meyer said data collected from the surveys will continue to inform efforts to expand this program and enhance its impact.
“It’s our hope we can extend the reach of this initiative and help make strides in addressing the issues of food insecurity and ‘food deserts’ that hamper so many families in our area from having the ability and resources to prepare healthy meals,” Meyer said.
All cooking demonstration videos, recipes and shopping lists are available at www.healthyoptionsbuffalo.com for anyone interested in trying a new, healthy meal.
Established in 1992, the Independent Health Foundation works to improve the health and well-being of Western New York residents through awareness, prevention, education and other programs focused on community health priorities. For more information on the foundation’s activities, visit www.independenthealth.com/foundation.